1. Game information
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida
Referee: Carl Cheffers
2. Injuries to know
The Falcons are still missing a number of players on the IR, most notably Josh Andrews and Matt Gono, as the team struggles along the offensive front. Still, there were no players that went down in the Week 1 matchup with the Eagles. As of right now, the Buccaneers are the only one with a player set to be on the injury report — Jason Pierre-Paul, who was limited in practice on Wednesday.
3. Buccaneers players to watch
RB Ronald Jones: After coughing up the ball in Week 1, Bruce Arians is going right back to Rojo and starting him against the Falcons. For Atlanta to sneak out of Raymond James with a win, they’ll have to win the turnover battle. Their best bet to do that starts with Jones.
DL Vita Vea: Matt Hennessy struggled mightily in pass protection against the Eagles defensive line. Vea is a different animal — the best pure nose tackle in the game. He’s as dangerous against the run as he is rushing the passer. If Vea is constantly pushing the pocket back, the Falcons offense will have back-to-back weeks of uninspiring play.
DL Ndamukong Suh: Jalen Mayfield will have an equally challenging time this week as he did last week against the Eagles. Suh will surely give Mayfield his second welcome to the NFL moment. I have faith Mayfield will improve, but Suh and William Gholston stand in his way this week.
DE Shaq Barrett, DE Jason Pierre-Paul: Jake Matthews should be able to hold his own against JPP and Barrett, but I fully expect them to isolate these two edge defenders on Kaleb McGary, who is notably struggling in pass protection.
4. Buccaneers QB: Tom Brady
Tom Brady is seemingly aging in reverse. The new-look Dallas defense under Dan Quinn looked like a lightweight in a heavyweight bout, and the Falcons defensive unit is similarly outmatched personnel-wise. The one thing the Falcons have going for them is Dean Pees, who is notorious for stifling Brady in the playoffs when he was in Tennessee. I would expect The Goat to go for over 300 yards and three scores, but hopefully Pees’ unit can generate a turnover or two; its the only way the Falcons stand a chance at winning.
5. Last meeting: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 44 (2021)
The last meeting between these two teams ended with Tom Brady riding into the playoffs with an organization that hadn’t made a postseason appearance in 13 years on his way to winning the Lombardi. Meanwhile, the Falcons entered the offseason in search of a new head coach and general manager. Matt Ryan finished with a respectable stat line, completing 29 of his 44 attempts for 265 yards and two scores, but Brady outdid him with 399 yards and four touchdowns.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire